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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fleur de Lys

Nob Hill District, San Francisco, California
Beautiful French cuisine with a California twist

A Little Story:
The Fleur de Lys is a symbol of French Nobility. Most Americans think of the New Orleans Saints football team when they see the symbol of the Fleur de Lys. Honestly, it looked like a cool symbol, but had no idea what the hell it meant. The symbol takes me back to when I visited the Loire Valley in France back in 2010, and took several days to tour the countryside, vineyards, and most impressively the château’s such as Chinon, Chenonceau, Pierrefonds, and Chambord. In each of these fantastic château’s the symbol of the old French Monarchy was present, which is of course before Louise and his wife messed that all up, and destroyed the French Monarchy. Rather teaches a harsh lesson, marry a spoiled Austrian Princess, and then when the people are starving, she said, “let them eat cake!” Bam, bad idea honey, off with her head and his. With their heads went the Fleur de Lys, until Chef Hubert Keller brought back a truer symbol to San Francisco then just the old monarchy or a football team, but fantastic food representative of the many regions of France, and blended a twist of California and bay area cuisine in with it. As a result, you have one of the best restaurants in San Francisco…The Fleur de Lys.

Review basics:
Stars:                             5 of 5
Quality of food:           9 of 10
Presentation:               8 of 10
Wine selection:           8 of 10 (World selection)
Customer service:       9 of 10
Ambiance:                   8 of 10
Corkage fee’s:             $25.00 per bottle
Restaurant style:        Semi Formal dining
Dress code:                 Business casual or conservative smart dress
Experiences:                Place for foodies, Lounge, Business parties, Romantic, Hot spot, Great bar, Good for special occasions, Beautiful décor, Rustic, Intimate, Classy, Trendsetter, Upscale and a Neighborhood gem.
Reservations:              Highly recommended, (made through, or contacting restaurant) --- CALL TO CONFIRM!!!
Walk-ins:                     Accepted, though good luck
Child policy:                No minimum age (children not recommended for this restaurant)
Cuisine style:               Contemporary, French, American
Music styles:               None  
Gratuities:                   18% added to parties of 8 or more
Credit cards:               AMEX, VISA, MC & Diners
Parking:                       Valet, or street parking
                                      validated parking, $13.00 charge
Transport options:      Bus, taxi, limousine, personal vehicle, and walking
Wi-Fi:                           No
Noise level:                 Low
Smoking:                     Nonsmoking restaurant
Executive Chef:
Hubert Keller

From restaurants home page:
Hubert Keller is known best for his world-renowned restaurants, Fleur de Lys (San Francisco). In 1986, Chef Keller partnered with his wife and Maurice Rouas to become the chef/owner of Fleur de Lys. Soon thereafter, accolades rolled in and the restaurant, already recognized as one of the most romantic restaurants in the city, became known as one of the best restaurants in the country. Dining beneath the colorful canopy of custom fabric designed by Chantal Keller is a dramatic and delicious experience and serves to heighten the experience of Keller’s dazzling food and genuine, personal charm. A truly original cuisine featuring contemporary French cooking with Mediterranean accents has emerged from Keller’s rich and varied career. He observes classic French principles and maintains a California-style commitment to health while incorporating the culinary traditions of Alsace, Brazil, and San Francisco. Accordingly, he pioneered a six-course vegetarian menu for Fleur de Lys making it the first fine-dining American restaurant to offer this option. Keller’s cooking maximizes the intrinsic goodness of pure flavors and high quality ingredients while using minimal butter and cream. His healthful cuisine led Dr. Dean Ornish, the noted cardiologist, to ask Keller to contribute recipes to Dr. Ornish’s bestselling cookbook, Eat More, Weigh Less.

Keller is internationally known for his innovation and creativity and has long been considered a “chef’s chef.” His restaurants are frequent gathering spots for local chefs and for chefs from around the globe. Keller is also known for his generosity and support for a wide range of educational, charitable, and community events around the country including PBS, Make a Wish Foundation, Taste of the Nation, and Share Our Strength.

Main review:
It was now day two in San Francisco. From the tourist stand point it was wonderful. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, and so on, but for the food scene my friend and I had struck out on what we thought would be good places to eat. For example the night before, we ate at Alioto’s restaurant on the Fisherman’s Wharf, and boy oh boy was it a bad experience. Therefore, it was now the second night and striking gold like a 49er is the best way to describe the experience at Fleur De Lys. Instead of looking for a parking space somewhere, which I am sure we would have found by 2050, valet seemed to be the best option, and at a $13.00 charge, it was not that bad. I have eaten at restaurants in Atlanta where the basic fee starts at $25 to 30.00 for valet.   

Entering into the foyer, we were taken to our seats after our opentable reservation was confirmed, and as I entered into the dining room, directly to the center was a beautiful flower display, and hanging from the ceiling were drapes, flowing down draped a few feet above the flower display, circling around a beautiful chandelier. The room was dimmed to enhance the ambiance, and set the tone for the meal and service to come. The service staff both Captain and Back server were very attentive and professional throughout the night, constantly refilling our drinks as they came to half way, (because I drink a lot of water when I’m drinking a lot of wine!) crumbing the table, folding napkins, and clearing at the exact times required. To start the evening, my friend preferred white wines, so she had a selection of some German wines by the glass, while I had a bottle of the 2007 Domaine Mongeard-MugnereNuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots, which had a tasty, mature, savory, mushroom, berry, mineral, and cranberry palate, with light tannins. The menu was like reading through an action novel, wanting to stop, but needing to turn to the next page. There was a wonderful selection of items infusing modern French cuisine with American, specifically Northern Californian. Being a Chef, as I do most of the time, I want the kitchen to surprise me, and bring out their tasting menu. I chose the five-course menu, while my friend stayed to choosing from the menu. She had not eaten traditional French food before, so she tried to go with what she recognized.
Entrance into dining room
Dining room
The Amuse course came while the Sommelier poured the wine. I had requested that it be decanted while we reviewed the menu. The amuse, served on a smaller plate, consisted of a pancetta and shaved carrot salad bite, served with a gazpacho. The taste was nice and crisp, perfect starter to match the August weather. The first of my five coursed menu came out, but since my friend had only ordered 3 courses, she had wait while I enjoyed. The dish was a Baekeoffe of Escargots and truffles, with a beautiful garlic-basil broth, topped with a brioche snail. My friend began to eat some of their homemade bread while my second course came out. This course was a chilled red beet borscht, consisting of Kobe beef cheek salad with smoked salmon, horseradish, and a spoon of crème Fraîche topped with caviar. I honestly had not eaten this good as far as French cuisine goes since 2010 when I ate at Le Gabriel restaurant in Bordeaux.
Baekeoffe of Escargots and truffles
chilled red beet borscht
The next course saw the introduction of my friend’s selection to begin, which started with the appetizer of roasted Maine Lobster, served over a coconut milk infused with Thai red curry, topped with lemongrass, ginger, and toasted nori. I took a bright, and really like it. For me came a symphony…literally. The final appetizer course was a symphony of five items consisting of a toasted duck and mozzarella “slider”, a piquillo gazpacho, chilled asparagus tips with pancetta, French potato salad, and a Faux gras mousse. Unfortunately by California law (California S.B. 1520) which went into effect in 2012, forced feeding of birds is now forbidden, so the Faux gras could not be duck liver, and is more of a chicken mouse then Faux gras, thanks Arnold Schwarzenegger for signing that one into law. Chicago tried that law a few years ago, and it was repealed soon after, so I hopefully do not think it will last too long in California. Right now chefs in California Restaurants can receive a $1000.00 fine for serving the real deal. Well, now that my rant is over, yes the dish was fantastic, even the fake Faux gras.
Roasted Maine Lobster
The symphony

The next course came as a series of two for me, while my friend had her main entrée course. Because this was considered the entrée course, I received mine first, then she received hers when I was 3/4 of way done, so that by the time my second course came, I could stay at pace with her entrée selection. She had ordered the Seared Filet Mignon accented in red wine, shallots, and a thyme bordelaise sauce, served with a lobster truffled macaroni and cheese baked in a brioche bowl. My first dish was a rye crusted Scottish Salmon, served over pickled mustard seed, topped with a caraway jus, and served with sliced radish and cabbage three ways. The fish was very tender and light, unlike fresh water farm raised salmon that has a strong fish odor to it. The mustard offset the flavors of the fish while enjoying the cabbage. My friend’s fillet was tender and cooked to a perfect medium-rare, and the sauce blew it away. For my second entrée course, which arrived a few minutes after my friend’s fillet hit the table, was a Kobe beef cheeks entrée topped with mustard and baked cornichons lying on a bed of smoked veal jus. To the side in a small dish came the sweetbread fricassee mixed with truffles and spinach, god I was heaven.
Scottish Salmon
Filet Mignon with lobster truffled mac and cheese
Kobe beef cheeks
The final course for me, my friend and I shared over a glass of Port for me, and a sweet Sauternes for her, and that was the all classical cheese platter. It came with five cheeses, some soft and light, while others were strong enough to kill a horse, damn I love French cheese. The plate came with a side bowl of mixed nuts and raisins.
Cheese plate
After a break and some coffee, we went crazy, and my friend ordered dessert. Even though my massive tasting menu was complete, I wanted to see what this pastry chef could do, so we both ordered. She had the chocolate soufflé, served with a cherry and Kirsch ice cream. As her spoon opened the top, it bubbled with chocolate, and you know how women get when their around chocolate. They turn into hyperactive kids. For me, I went with the servers’ recommendation and had the Fleurburger dessert, which was a slider of spiced dark chocolate Ganache, served with a Beignet Banana milk shake, and frozen fennel ice cream Pommes Frites.
chocolate soufflé,
Fleurburger dessert
It was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening, but just when I thought it was going to end, Chef Hubert Keller came from the kitchen to talk with us. Normally besides the quick table meet and greets that chef’s do, when he heard that I was also a chef and working in Afghanistan, he sat down with us and talk for a while, presented a book where the Fleur de Lys restaurant was listed, and signed it, along with a copy of the menu. That to me was an extra special touch that he did not have to do, but chose to do, building loyalty, and a return of clients. When I return to San Francisco, Fleur de Lys will be on my list of places to go. Who knows, maybe I will be able to get back in the kitchen for a short time and have some fun, as long as the health department doesn’t find out of course that a customer was cooking alongside the Chef de Cuisine. My friend enjoyed her entrée and dessert, but was not impressed with her fist two courses. I tried her food and loved it, but like I mentioned earlier, she was not used to eating French cuisine, and some of it did not agree with her pallet, but then everyone is different. When the check arrived, a small plate of dessert petit fours accompanied them to finish off the night, consisting of chocolate, and tartlets. I was unable to eat all of it because I was so full, but I did nibble to try it. To me Fleur de Lys was the best restaurant I visited while in San Francisco. There was one other good one, but not in the same caliber as here, and whatever you do, avoid the first restaurant we went to on Fisherman’s Wharf that I talked about earlier called Alioto’s. It was horrid. Click on it to read the review, and then book your reservations at Fleur de Lys. Thank you for a wonderful evening Chef Keller.
Petit fours
This restaurant reminds me:
Fleur de Lys was a fantastic experience, and reminded me of when I was in Bordeaux and ate at Le Gabriel restaurant which was a three story structured building with the bar on the first floor and the dining area and kitchen on the second and third floors. The restaurant faced the river, and the food was fantastic and classical French style. When I think of Le Gabriel restaurant and Joel Robochon in Paris, I will now think of Hubert Keller and Fleur de Lys in San Francisco.

Food price per person excluding gratuity
(Based on my dining experience):
Price chart:
$ -                    Under $50.00 USD
$$ -                  Under $75.00 USD
$$$ -                Over $100.00 USD
$$$$ -              Over $200.00 USD
$$$$$-             Over $400.00 USD

My food bill:
$145.00           USD
£93.00             GBP 
€108.00           EUR

Cost of wine and other alcoholic beverages (p/p):

Restaurant address: 
777 Sutter Street                               (SEE GOOGLE MAP)
San Francisco, California
Nob Hill
Cross streets:
Jones & Taylor

Tel:                  +1 415 673-7779
Website:            Fleur de Lys
Email:              Contact Fleur de Lys
Opentable link     

Dinner only:
Tue-Thu 6 pm - 9:30 pm
Fri 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm
Sat 5 pm - 10:30 pm
Sun & Mon –Closed
Pacific Standard Time

Proprietor / Manager:
Hubert & Chantal Keller
Marcus Garcia
Chef de Cuisine:
Rick Richardson                                                           
Pastry Chef:
Gilberto Villarreal

Review by:
Chef Sean Overpeck (CFE)

Other Great Restaurant articles from Wine, dine, and Play:
The French Laundry - (review coming soon)